After the events of last night I was kept up at the farm complex instead of sent back to tent-city. The room they put me in for safekeeping may have actually been a bedroom at some point – for an infant or a little kid perhaps. It reminded me a lot of the cell I was briefly held in in Wrybry, except it had a door instead of bars. Just wood walls and a bed with no sheets and nothing else. Before dawn the door was opened by two of the orange and white maybe soldiers that run this place for the benefit of another Baron. Aside from the clothing, which was fine indeed, this one looked more like a pugilist than an aristocrat. His head was shaved stubbly and his face looked like a cobblestone. At first I thought he had a pox-mark or the like on his cheek but I think it was a really shitty tattoo. A bunch lines maybe in the shape of a bird? Hard to say. He had a scowl that looked like it could stop a charging rhinox.
“It’s customary to stand in the presence of your betters.”
“Let me know when one turns up. Although this bed isn’t very comfortable so I was thinking about standing up anyway – just don’t misinterpret it as a sign of respect. Who knew that I would ever pine for a cot again? It’s lumpy is what it is, that’s the problem, it’s like a giant trying to sleep in the hills – not enough support in some places and too much in others.”
One of the guards spoke up “You want us to drag her up Baron Elvyra?”
“Elvyra? Isn’t that a girl’s name?”
“Which story you told last night was the truth?”
“Since you’re a baron I doubt you’ve ever done this, but I remember when I was a little girl I used to wade out into this stream on the farm and I’d try to catch these little slivery fish that swim around in there during the spring. I never could of course, slippery litter buggers they were, as soon as my hand tried to clasp about they away they’d squirt. There was no chance of getting them really, not by grabbing at them anyhow, but the harder you tried the farther away from success you were. The truth is like that. The firmer you try to grip it the more it slips through your fingers. The truth is this – your alliance of Barons has been infiltrated by demon cultists, or maybe they’re the ones who started the whole thing, I don’t know, so if you’re not one of them you’ve got a real problem. Who’s in charge of this alliance?”
“We have no leader, we are all equals in this matter.”
I grinned “That was spoken by the man who’s in charge and lets everyone else think they’re all equals. I can tell by your voice. So you’re the Baron of Barons, the only question is are you a demon worshipping heretic or are you someone whose whole plan just got screwed to the Heavens by the demon worshipping heretics? Because here’s the thing, your coup or plan to squeeze Baron Juost or the mayor or the Queen herself, that plan is fucked. Once you’ve got demononcity in the mix that’s all it’s going to be. If you’re a demon person obviously you have a different agenda, but if you’re not you need to end this thing as soon as possible and come up with a new plan. If you’re really good at scheming and also lucky you might be able to spin this to your advantage, set yourself up as the hero who rooted out the cult, but that’s a slim path my friend.”
He gestured shortly to his two guards “Bring her to my chamber.”
With that he stomped off, leaving the two men to smirk like something horrible was about to befall me. The “chamber” in question was a wagon off to the side of the tent-city that I hadn’t noticed before. It was one of those deals where extradimensional magic was involved to make it bigger inside than out, but even so it was only the size of a common bedroom. It was quite elaborately appointed though, which was incongruous with the rocky appearance of its inhabitant. When the two Orangies muscled me inside Baron Elvyra was at a desk, I shit you not, with his hands on a fucking crystal ball. It was like he was a kneading a wad of dough. When he was done peering into the murky future he spun around on his chair and attacked me with his gaze.
“Besides the girl who else is involved in this?”
“I have no idea. You should ask her. Ask her hard if you know what I mean.”
“How did you find out about her?”
“She tried to kill me. Probably on the orders of a succubus in town, who may have masterminded this whole thing.”
“Why? Are you behind the whole thing? Whose idea was this alliance? If it was someone else they may be a pawn of the succubus, or they may be in league with her, or maybe they summoned her – I have no information at this point besides that someone tried to kill me and they turned out to be a demon cultist, since I have beef with a demon I assume they’re related.”
“What would you do now if you were free to do as you pleased?”
“Assuming that it’s safe to enter that part of the town I would go to the home of Crawdore Van Saar and kill the succubus.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that. I have had some time to think about this and what I’ve realized is that I was making the same mistake everyone makes with me – I was trying to outmaneuver and outthink her when what I should be doing is just walking up and murdering her. Charm and trickery and subtlety and deception, those are her strengths, and when you go after someone you don’t go strength against strength you go after their weakness. The issue I was having is that I’m using to having to be smarter to defeat someone stronger, quicker to defeat someone bigger, and so I was trying to be better at her at the thing she’s good at when what I should do is just shoot her in the fucking chest. I made the same mistake people make with me. It’s really rather interesting to be on the other side of one of these scenarios.”
“I’ll sneak you out of the camp tonight, you have one night, you kill her. If the succubus is part of this then she won’t be anymore and if she’s not then I’ll know. What do you need?”
“Is it even safe to go into the city?”
“You’re going. What do you need?”
“Uh, do you have any demon killing crossbow bolts?”
“Do I look like I’m kidding?”
“No, no you do not. Okay, so I’ll take those, and I’ll need the bodyguards you’ve been having watch me. Some of them anyway, how many of them are there?”
“Those freaks that all look alike? No, I don’t trust them, I’ll send some of my men with you.”
His rocky face was incredulous “No?!”
“No, I don’t know who’s loyal to what around here but I know that they helped me fight the cultists last night – one of them nearly died doing it.”
“I heard you shot her.”
“That’s not how I remember it. The point is whatever else is going on I know they’re not part of the cult, so I want them watching my back. Your men may be bravest bestest men around but they’re still men and last time I checked succubi and their pert little assistant followers specialize in manipulating men – I’ll take the league of extraordinary similar ladies at my back.”
“Fine, you’ll stick with me until then.”
“Sounds boring, but alright.”
And it was boring indeed. At least he had a comfortable bed though, which is where I reclined while he had a serious of furtive meetings with other fancy fellows in between bouts of fondling his crystal ball. When these people first showed up in Beresford to rescue/abduct me I assumed because of the number ten on their shields that there were ten barons in the alliance, but now I don’t have a clue – seems like there may be twenty or thirty of them. Which seems like a lot of barons. Is there enough land for all those people? Do all barons even get land? Most of them barely spared me a glancing, likely assuming that I was just the spoils being claimed by the big baron on campus. Those that did I gave the jaded look back to of exactly that – a sexual prize that has grown used to being nothing more.
Things did liven up around mid-day when it was time for Essa and her two living accomplices to be executed. No work detail had been sent out that day so the entire camp was gathered to stand witness and seeing them all in the light of the day gave me a true sense of the scope of what was happening here. There had to be close to a thousand refugees and probably half as many soldiers along with an almost equal number of baronial servants and hangers on and whatnot. Most of the villages in the county don’t have a tenth this many people. It’s a funny old world.
Besides the marks I had given her in the fight Essa had clear been tortured, although her two fighters had not – maybe they needed her to confess but they were just assumed to be guilty? Not sure which is worse. When they first brought her forth she put out a very convincing scared and hurt little girl routine, weeping and begging for help and proclaiming her innocence, but once it became clear that no one was going to come to her air she switched to hateful curses in the Dark Speech. I’ve (sadly) heard it enough times that it doesn’t truly bother me anymore, but a lot people shied away and covered their ears – the first few times those words strike your ear it is like a physical blow, one that makes your head ring. She was quickly muzzled so she wouldn’t corrupt anyone with her forbidden words and then Melmothians came forward in their threadbare grey robes to pronounce her a heretic and an apostate and an anathema in the eyes of the Gods.
There was no gibbet for hanging or pile of logs for burning so I assumed beheading was going to be the order of the day but instead the three of them were simply strangled. A burly fellow with a length of rope came up behind each of them and just choked the life out of them. Of all the deaths I’ve seen that was somehow the most brutal. A botched hanging is pretty bad, when they just dangle there and suffocate, this was worse. But it did give me a chance to observe something interesting – I saw through an illusion in the crowd. The little kid hanging off the hand of one of the women in the crowd was actually a gnome disguised with a figment. I mentioned this to Baron Elvyra and in short order the gnome/child and the women quietly and calmly disappeared from the crowd. I sure hope they have something to do with this demon business, otherwise they’re going to be in for a hard time for no reason.
What was truly chilling about this affair though was that directly after the deaths of three people lunch was served, and the man who had just strangled three people to death was sitting with his buddies laughing and eating meat pies like nothing had happened. I’ve known a few executioners in my day, some of them are the kind of grim specters that you’d imagine, but some of them are like this. It’s just their job. Nothing to get overly excited about, just life and death.
Afterwards I was quickly shuffled back into Baron Elvyra’s wagon and given some cold meat and warm cheese to eat pared with a ridiculously expensive wine. The good baron himself didn’t return for several hours, but the door did open and someone laid four crossbow bolts wrapped in a cloth inside before the door shut again. I examined them and saw that they were made of some curious looking metal, I couldn’t identify it but then I’m not a metallurgist so why would I be able to? They didn’t look terribly well made to my eye but they were etched with holy symbols so hopefully they’ll do something. I slipped them into my quiver and continued waiting for several more hours. Once the door opened again the sun was setting and Baron Elvyra was there with seven of the blue and silver ladies behind him. I didn’t see any of his men anywhere in sight. He gestured urgently.
“Come on, it’s time.”
There didn’t seem to be a lot of sneaking involved, it seemed like we were just walking out of camp but I assumed (hoped) that the Baron knew what he was doing. Once we reached the perimeter of the camp he grabbed my arm painfully.
“If you don’t come back these women have orders to kill you on the spot.”
I met his gaze coolly “Understood.”
He let go, standing and watching as we marched out of camp. As the sunlight faded I could see Beresford before me, as the camp was on something of a small rise. The southeast corner of the city was pretty banged up but I’ve certainly seen much worse. The rest of the city looked intact, probably because you could see that barricades had been erected to keep all the action in the section that we were evacuated from.
“I suppose we should swing around and try to come in from the north side.”
One of the women, I think maybe the first one I talked to spoke “And where are we going?”
“You’re going to watch my back while I kill a demon.”
“Can’t demons appear and disappear at will? How’s that going to work?”
“I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go along.”
Funds: 50,874 gold
Inventory: Courtier’s Outfit, Noble’s outfit, Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, sunrod (2) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring, Everwake Amulet, Ring of Disguise, Boots of the Winter Jarl, Ring of Jumping, Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper), map, Badge of Last Resort, Healer’s Satchel, 28 tiny diamonds, +1 Cold Iron Demonbane Crossbow Bolts (4)
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa